In a small section of the town of Smithfield, Rhode Island, all that remains of a once thriving village are a few stone foundations and three legible gravestones. For nearly two centuries, many have speculated about the fate of the residents of Hanton City, an abandoned village named after the Hanton family who once resided there. The settlement is a considerable distance from all the other settlements in Smithfield which were occupied at the time of its existence, leading many to wonder about its purpose, as well as the reason it was eventually abandoned. Continue reading No ‘notorious scandals’
Paul Revere’s famous ride is often the jumping off point for thinking about the Revolutionary War. But there is a lesser known patriot – a woman, too – who helped win the war and changed the course of history.
Her name was Sybil Ludington, and she was born 5 April 1761 in Connecticut as the eldest child of Henry and Abigail Ludington. On the rainy night of 25 April 1777, as British troops were advancing to attack Danbury, Connecticut, Sybil, only 16 years old at the time, took off on her famous 40 mile horseback ride to alert approximately 400 militiamen under the control of her father, Colonel Henry Ludington. She was chosen for the task because the original messenger, who had ridden to notify her father of the advancing British troops, was too tired from his first trip and could not proceed. Continue reading In praise of Sybil Ludington
On Tuesday, NEHGS announced the first fruits of an historic collaboration with the Archdiocese of Boston, one where – over a period of years – Archdiocesan records will be digitized and made available on the NEHGS website, AmericanAncestors.org. In the fullness of time, this collaboration will preserve and make accessible unique records to tell the stories of some 10 million people from the earliest days of the Catholic community in Massachusetts through the twentieth century. These records are key because they often include events not captured in civil registrations. Whether because of a home birth or a conscious decision not to report an event to a civil authority, these documents might include the only written record for a birth or a death. Their importance and value cannot be overstated. Continue reading An historic collaboration
I came across an interesting family story while working on the Early New England Families Study Project sketch for Henry Lamprey of Hampton, New Hampshire, that claimed his wife received a dowry from her family equal to her weight in gold!
The story apparently first appeared in print in the 1893 History of the Town of Hampton, New Hampshire by Joseph Dow (p. 783). Dow may have been a descendant of Henry Lamprey through his daughter Elizabeth, who married Daniel Dow. His version reads: “A pretty story (of the truth of which there is little doubt) has been handed down for generation to generation, that this little wife received for her marriage dowry a scale, containing her weight (one hundred twelve pounds) in gold.” Continue reading ‘There was a poor man in London’
When I catalog new books received by the NEHGS library, my normal focus is, naturally, on the contents of the books themselves: the families and places described, the authors, the titles and publication information, and so on. But every now and then, the books we receive contain little “surprises” that go beyond the published words on the page. Over the years, we have found all kinds of objects left in books, from hand-drawn family trees to photographs and calling cards. Some of these items were clearly meant to supplement the books they were left in, and have definite genealogical import; others are only tangentially related to the book’s content. Still others are complete mysteries: we don’t know why they were left in the book, or if they were even left there on purpose. Continue reading Ex libris
Each December I gather up a dozen blog posts from the year just ending, in hopes of giving new (and long-time) readers a sense of the breadth of content Vita Brevis offers.
On 13 January, Zachary Garceau published a post on the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, marking the death of the last known survivor, William A. “Bill” Del Monte (1906–2016):
“In addition to the tragic loss of human life, the effects of another significant loss have been felt in the 110 years since that disastrous day. As a result of ruptured gas mains and other structural issues, several massive fires erupted, including one which swept through the San Francisco City Hall and its adjoining Hall of Records. Continue reading 2016: the year in review
Researching in Québec has many advantages: church records, census records, and notarial records are all at one’s disposal. But as with any kind of research, we can inevitably hit a brick wall. At this juncture, newspapers may offer some clues. Continue reading Québec newspapers
[Author’s note: This series, on Mrs. Gray’s reading habits, began here.]
The year 1864 would be marked by several important changes in Regina Shober Gray’s circle. The first was the announcement of Mrs. Gray’s friend Emily Adams’s unexpected engagement, which was soon followed by the death of an early Boston friend, Anna Powell Jones.
61 Bowdoin Street, Boston, Sunday, 3 January 1864: Every one is much surprised to [learn] of Emily Adams’ engagement to Caleb Curtis Jr. They have known each other all their lives, near neighbours and playmates from childhood – and have just discovered this penchant when she is 36 or 7 [sic] and he about a year younger. They know each other so well that each must be thoroughly aware what to expect from each other, in temper, character, intellect, & culture. So there can be little disappointment in that way. Continue reading ‘A kind faithful friend’
This year’s holiday Open House at the NEHGS library on Saturday, December 10, included several Fireside Chats. In the morning Marie Daly and Judy Lucey discussed Irish genealogy.
In the afternoon Chris Child covered the different types of DNA testing – Y-chromosome, mitochondrial, and autosomal. This last is the “hot” fad right now; it’s the type you see on TV, such as “I thought all my ancestors were [fill in the blank], but…” I am no expert on the complexity of DNA inheritance, so it was interesting to learn that European (including the British Isles) DNA is greatly affected by thousands of years of migrating groups that have mixed up the pool to the point of making specific interpretations difficult. On the other hand, test results are accumulating to the point where surnames will be identifiable! Continue reading Fireside chats, 2016
A new database on AmericanAncestors that you might not think to look at is Gov. John Winthrop Papers, Vol. 1–5, 1557 to 1649. These five volumes were originally published by the Massachusetts Historical Society between 1929 and 1947. (The sixth volume, published in 1992, is still under copyright restrictions.) This collection is different from that known as the “Winthrop Journal,” published in 1853, although that also includes some correspondence. Winthrop Papers contains correspondence of members of the extended Winthrop family, including the governor’s father, Adam Winthrop, and his son John Winthrop, the Younger. Continue reading The Winthrop Papers